Safe lice treatments

Are lice shampoos safe? Dr. Diane Sacks breaks it down and suggests some alternatives

Q: My eight-year-old just came home with head lice. I am worried about the chemicals in lice shampoo. Are they safe and are there any alternatives?

A: How something so small causes so much trouble amazes me.

A few important issues: Head lice, unlike body lice, isn’t a health hazard. It’s difficult to diagnose and only if there is certainty should treatment be instituted.

There are two chemicals that are safe, effective and approved for use in Canada, pyrethrin (brand name R&C) and permethrin (brand names Nix and Kwellada). Pyrethrin should not be used in people who have hay fever as there are some cross reactions. At present, we have not identified high resistance to these treatments. But please follow the instructions exactly. Most should not be used on kids under two years of age (nit/lice combing needs to be done here).

There is now a product that is non-insecticidal that has been shown to have success (Resultz). Many other treatments, such as tea tree oil and petroleum jelly, have been handed down, but there are no trials on how effective they are. Recently, a coconut-oil-based product called Hair Clean 1-2-3 has been shown to have some success.

By the way, hunting and combing works, but it must be done diligently and really takes hours. A good resource for this topic is

Stay in touch

Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.